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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Understanding Birth Certificates (UK)

The information entered on a certificate was supplied by those applying for it. No data was verified, no ages checked for marriages, etc.

Birth Certificates: During the early years of registration many births were not registered because it was not compulsory and there was no penalty for failure to comply. This was especially true for children of illegitimate birth. In 1875, it became compulsory. There was a six week (42 days) time limit in which to register a birth. After six weeks and up to six months the birth could be registered on payment of a fine. After that time, with very few exceptions, a birth could not be registered. It was fairly common for parents to adjust the birth date to within 42 days. Also, as part of the 1875 changes, a mother, when reporting an illegitimate birth, could not name the father; he had to be present and consent to his name being entered.

Starting in the third quarter of 1911, the GRO (General Registry Office) Indexes began to include the mother's maiden surname. On 1st July 1927, stillbirth registration commenced.

A Birth Certificate will contain the following information:

Date of birth (and time for twins)
Birthplace (street address, farm, village)
Name of child
Gender of child
Forename and surname of the father (blank for illegitimate)
Forename, surname, and maiden name of the mother
Occupation of the father
Signature; a description (mother) and address of the informant
Date of registration
Signature of registrar

You will note that the "time of birth" was rare, often used only for multiple births.

It is still true in the UK that the proud father goes off to the Register Office, records the birth, and gets a short birth certificate. One should note: The hospitals and midwives pass on their records to the register office, who cross you off the list when you turn up to register. You have 6 weeks to do it (strictly 42 days). Also, the hospital records may differ from the final cert - all babies born are listed under their mother's name, which is not necessarily their father's. So the hospital records may have a different surname.